Last Updated on: 27th August 2023, 08:32 am
Alebtong I A bitter disagreement has erupted between the Alebtong District LC5 Chairman D.K Odongo and his councillors against the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Robert Abenaitwe.
The latest disagreements are likely to disrupt service delivery in the district.
The beef that has been simmering underneath the carpet rose to its maximum boiling temperature during a council meeting held at the Council Hall on Thursday 24 August 2023.
During the meeting chaired by the Council Speaker, Kenneth Omara, the majority of councillors led by the chairman Kennedy Odongo had no kind words for CAO Abenaitwe whom they heaped a catalogue of unsubstantiated accusations.
They listed about a dozen of allegations against Abenaitwe who was not present in the meeting. Many expect the political disorder to hinder service delivery in the 13-year-old district curved from Lira district in 2010.
According to Chairman Odongo, the CAO has spent only 33 days at his duty station since he was posted to Alebtong four months ago. Odongo tells TND News his constant absenteeism is the reason the councilors are mad at him.
The LC5 boss, on behalf of his political team, accuses Abenaitwe of having a very negative attitude towards the “political wing” and has no respect for the civil servants whom he intimidates and manipulates to serve his interest.
Odongo made a breakdown of Abenaitwe’s attendance viz a viz absenteeism as follows:
He says in April 2023, the CAO was in office for five days, and in May seven days. In June, he was in office for 13 days while in July – it was a mere eight days.
In August, he has so far sat in office for three days, which means, according to DK Odongo, the much-desired service delivery has suffered greatly owing to the position of the CAO as chief supervisor and accounting officer.
Abenaitwe denies all the allegations from Odongo and his councillors. He hits back, accusing the political wing of being “most corrupt and greedy” – and “wanting to arm-twist him into succumbing to their illegal gymnastics.”
With only one year to retirement, Abenaitwe who has worked in many districts including Bushenyi, Mitooma, Kagadi, Kiryandongo, Hoima; Nakasongola and Ibanda, among others, advises Odongo and his councillors to work hard instead of thinking they can grab money in the local government.
Without mincing more words, Abenaitwe describes the “councillors as poverty-stricken who use blackmail” so that they are given leeway to grab money from prospective contractors.
“…I have adequate experience and knowledge in the local government, so there is nothing new they can teach me apart from their trademark blackmail and threats which they have mastered…,” the combative Abenaitwe hit back in an interview with TND News.
Commenting on the Council resolution to reject him, Abenaitwe says it’s the only thing Odongo and his councillors can do, adding, “It’s a blessing in disguise because he will leave Alebtong as a very clean man, free from the stressful and toxic environment.”
Without mentioning names, Abenaitwe further hits hard, saying some of those in the Council have fleets of concubines making them sprawl everywhere for money and do not deserve to be leaders because of their character and integrity.
Following cat and rat-like manoeuvres, Kennedy Odongo whose relationship with Abenaitwe is already irreparable, together with councillors, unanimously resolved they no longer need his services.
An Ad Hoc Committee was instituted just for formality, otherwise, a decision was already made that the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Local Government Bernard Kumumanya should take away his ‘ageing boy’ since he had become a ‘persona non grata’ in Alebtong.
Members of the Ad hoc Committee are Theophilius Obua (Abia sub-county) as chairperson, Morris Okwanga (Amugu sub-county), Dennis Okuba (Adwir sub-county), Francis Okello (Alebtong town council) and Grace Atim Abalo (PWDs).
The Committee’s terms of reference were to look into all contracts within the 2022/23 financial year, following widespread complaints of irregularities and establish how the District Contracts Committee was instituted.
It was also to investigate allegations of abuse of office, mismanagement of contracts and corruption by four top civil servants named as suspects with a view of getting to the bottom of the matter.
The four under investigation are the acting District Engineer David Puche, District Engineer Bonney Otieno, Senior Procurement Officer Susan Alok and Assistant Procurement Officer Barbra Alok.
The council recommended that the four civil servants should step aside to avoid interfering with the probe, meaning the CAO was meant to interdict them for at least three months.
The CAO was also advised to change his methods of operation by respecting councillors led by the Chairman who is his boss. He was also urged to be regular at the duty station and to stop intimidating the civil servants.
The interdiction did not happen and the four, until now, continue to execute their duties as if nothing has happened, to the annoyance of the councillors who feel undermined, yet they have the mandate from the population.
The CAO instead wrote to the Solicitor General (Gulu Regional Office) seeking legal and technical guidance on how to handle the tricky matter to avoid unnecessary litigation.
It is reported the Gulu office wrote back, saying they have also communicated the same to the Attorney General for legal guidance. CAO Abenaitwe maintains that he cannot act ultra vires the way the politicians want because it has serious consequences.
The Report from the Ad Hoc Committee instituted by the District Council was read out to the emotionally charged councillors who demanded the immediate transfer of the CAO who was conspicuously absent.
Interestingly, none of the civil servants including the Deputy CAO was allowed to speak. Even RDC Jillian Akullo was guarded in her speech by focusing more on PDM.
The Alebtong District Woman MP Dorcus Acen also refused to be sucked into the saga but tactfully commended the councillors for conducting themselves peacefully by following the law.
Acen reminded the councillors against acting recklessly against civil servants who hail from outside Lango. The woman MP directed them to take note that equally many sons and daughters of the soil are serving Ugandans elsewhere.
By Nelly Otto & Denis Arao